Although there are a lot of transfer dealings left to play out, the Community Shield, the traditional curtain raiser for the new Premier League season, is only a little over a week away (For the uninitiated, last season’s Premier League Champions, Manchester United, will face last season’s F.A. Cup Winners, Wigan Athletic, at Wembley on August 11th). It promises to be one of the most exciting seasons in years, with the raft of top-level managerial changes, and many players looking to break into their respective country’s 2014 World Cup squads. We will use the opportunity to go through who we think will be the stand out players (MVP in American-speak) for each Premier League club.
First up is Arsenal. Still searching for the ever elusive marquee signing, Gunners fans must feel like it is Groundhog Day all over again. That said, with an abundance of young attacking talent, they look set for the future. I doubt that last year’s Player of the Year, Mikel Arteta has the legs to surpass his exploits last year, but Arsenal should expect a great season from his midfield colleague Jack Wilshire. In saying that though, I expect the player to have the greatest effect on Arsenal’s fortunes this year to be Olivier Giroud. With five goals, in the Gunner’s four pre-season games so far, Giroud looks ready to step up his game, and banish the memory of Robin van Persie. With France well placed in their World Cup qualifying group, and with an abundance of strikers to choose from, Giroud will need to continue his great form throughout the year, and I expect him to deliver.
Cardiff City’s promotion to the Premier League, under manager Malaky Mackay, was typified by a strict team ethic. Former Aston Villa academy graduate, Peter Whittingham has been voted on to the PFA Championship Team of the Season, for the past three seasons, by his peers, but I fear that the Premier League will be a step above his capabilities. Cardiff will struggle in the top division, but the Bluebirds (in red), should have plenty to sing about new signing, Andreas Cornelius. A record Summer signing from F.C. Copenhagen, the big Danish international has the physical stature to be a force in the Premier League, and though only turning professional a little over a year ago, he looks to have the nous to ensure Cardiff are not Premier League pushovers.
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have an abundance of young and fresh talent, so much so it makes picking one stand out player pretty much impossible. So impressive in the Confederations Cup, both David Luiz and Oscar look set for excellent campaigns for the Blues. Hazard and Mata should continue to excel, whilst big things are also expected from Kevin De Bruyne and new recruit, Marco van Ginkel this season. Unless curtailed by the arrival of a certain ogre-ish looking Scouser, Romelu Lukaku seems set to emerge from the shadows of Didier Drogba, at Stamford Bridge. Four goals in his three pre-season games thus far, and ringing platitudes from Mourinho bode well for Lukaku getting a chance in the side. A goal scoring average of almost a goal every two games for West Brom will surely be improved upon this year, given the improved service he will receive from Mata, Hazard, Oscar et al.
Back in the Premier League for the first time since the 2004/05 season, Crystal Palace, managed by the always entertaining Ian Holloway, look certain to resume their participation in the Championship, in the very near future. Last year’s Player of the Year Jonathan Parr should add a solid base at the back, once he returns from injury, and Glen Murray – the side’s top scorer, with an impressive thirty goals, in forty-three league appearances will hope to impress again for the Eagles in the Premier League. The loss of Wilfred Zaha to Manchester United is a massive blow for Holloway’s side, but that has been quashed somewhat by the signing of Spanish U20 captain, José Campaña. Bought from Sevilla, for a relatively modest $2.75 million, the highly rated midfielder was establishing himself in the Andalusian side last year, before his season was curtailed by injury. A classic Spanish midfielder, Campaña is best known for his immaculate distribution, maturity & technical ability. Holloway believes that Campaña’s ability will ensure a prolonged stay in the Premier League. The Spaniard will certainly need to be on his game.
2013/14 will certainly be an interesting season for Everton fans. David Moyes’ defection to Manchester United and his replacement by Roberto Martinez will have massive repercussions for the playing style of the side. The prolonged uncertainty over the future of last year’s stand out players, Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, will only further add to the upheaval. Of the rest of the old guard, Kevin Mirallas will hope for another fine season with the Toffees, as will Nikica Jelavić, who will be aiming to put the disappointments of last term behind him. Martinez has pulled off a transfer coup however, in signing Gerard Deulofeu, from Barcelona. The hugely talented Spaniard has been a mainstay of the Spanish youth team setup, with two UEFA U-19 titles to his name already. One can bet that many more titles will follow. A loan contract clause with Everton, which waives all loan fees, if Deulofeu appears in over half of Everton’s games, should certainly ensure playing time. With a style of play reminiscent of a young Cristiano Ronaldo, and eighteen goals for the Barcelona B side last season, Deulofeu looks capable of becoming one of the more famous graduates of La Masia, and will hope to do so in Everton blue.
While the mercurial Ditimar Berbatov can be assured of another great season at Craven Cottage, Martin Jol will need a lot more from his side this year. It remains to be seen whether new owner, American billionaire Shahid Kahn, will invest largely in the side, but the squad currently looks a little threadbare, if the Cottagers are to maintain their moderate success of the past few seasons. The loss of veteran goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer (to Chelsea) was one of the major issues for Jol to deal with this post-season, and he looks to have a great acquisition in fellow Dutchman, Maarten Stekelenburg, from AS Roma. After a torrid two season spell in the Italian capital, Stekelenburg, who succeeded former Cottager Edwin van der Sar as first choice for the Dutch national side, brings bags of experience, and will be aiming to be on the plane to Brazil next Summer, with the Oranje. The Dutchman will need to call on his outstanding reactions and distribution, if Craven Cottage will be home to Premier League football next season.
Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 of, “Who will be the stand out player for your club this season?” over the coming days.